Low temperatures boost blood orange health benefits

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Low temperatures boost blood orange health benefits

A new study shows that storing blood oranges in cool temperatures boosts the fruit's antioxidants and other health benefits. 

The fruit, known for its deep red flesh which contains an antioxidant pigment, is rich in useful health compounds that include anthocyanins, flavonoids, polyphenols, hydroxycinnamic acids, and ascorbic acid. All compounds are linked to several health benefits including anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antiviral, antiobesity, and antitumor properties. 

The study shows that storing the orange at ambient temperatures can degrade the bioactive compounds and shorten its shelf life due to water loss, increased respiration, and fungal decay. 

The oranges were harvested from a research plot at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, FL, and immediately transported to the lab at the University of Florida. 

The new University of Florida report shows that storing blood oranges at 40 to 53°F enhances anthocyanin, phenolic content, and antioxidants. When they lowered the temperatures 43 to 46°F, they also preserved fruit firmness, weight loss and sugar content.

The fruit is commonly grown in countries with cold Mediterranean climate like in Italy and Spain. In the United States, blood oranges grow primarily in California.

Florida citrus growers might have a hard time growing the variety in the state, due to its subtropical weather. Anthocyanin develops when the fruit is exposed to cold temperatures for at least 20 days, weather conditions that are rare in the state. 

Lead author of the study, Fariborz Habibi says growing the variety might not be viable just yet for Floridian growers. 

"Although blood oranges typically command higher prices than other common varieties, such as navel or Valencia oranges, it is unclear if farmers could substantially increase their per-acre income by adding them to their crop selection and then storing them for internal color development,” Habibi explained. 

“Improved fruit quality from the storage method presents a promising opportunity for the Florida citrus industry. However, further study is needed before recommending anything to growers.”

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